Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Red Days is a young and new adult environmental fiction novel written by M.L. Sparrow. Keiko Saito enjoyed her life in London. She was a reporter for a notable newspaper, had a boyfriend, and loved the spacious apartment which they shared. Keiko’s Japanese parents had pushed her as she was growing up, demanding excellence in her academic achievements. While she often wished they would show some approval of her accomplishments, she acknowledged that their high standards had helped her succeed in life so far. Unlike other graduates, Keiko had been recruited right out of school, and she loved her job, at least most of the time. She was currently lagging on her most recent assignment, which was about childhood obesity in the UK. The topic had been done so many times in so many different ways that Keiko couldn’t seem to get a new and authentic approach. When her boss, Mr. Jacobs, told her that he was taking her off the assignment, Keiko became alarmed and began to blurt out assurances that she’d have it finished soon, but Mr. Jacobs had an entirely different assignment for Keiko, one that he saw as a promotion. While she was affronted at first that he had chosen her as for the assignment in Japan, she agreed to keep her mind open until she had viewed the DVD he handed her. The film it contained, The Cove, had won the 2009 audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. Watching it in her flat later that evening would change Keiko’s life forever.
M.L. Sparrow’s new adult environmental fiction novel, Red Days, takes Keiko and the reader to Taiji, a small village in Japan where, since 1969, a handful of fishermen conduct a ruthless and bloody harvesting and slaughter of dolphins. Sparrow’s work, while fiction, details the timeline of events leading up to Ric O’Barry’s release of his film, The Cove, as well as the efforts made by protesters from around the world to expose and stop the slaughter. I had been unaware of the Taiji Dolphin Drive and was appalled and saddened by what I learned from this book as well as during the online searches I made as I read Red Days. I applaud Sparrow’s efforts in increasing the awareness of this brutal event which is still being held from late autumn through March. Sparrow’s plot, which follows Keiko’s trip to Japan and subsequent series of articles on the Slaughter, is well written and kept my attention throughout. I enjoyed seeing Keiko’s interactions with her Japanese grandparents as well as noting how her friendship with Jed Kenrick, a volunteer working with Ric grew. Red Days focuses attention on a little-known tragedy and the cultural contrasts that allow the Japanese government and the village of Taiji to maintain an awful tradition, and, while saddened, I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to read this work. Red Days is most highly recommended.